Free Markets, Free People
Sometimes the mask slips a little on the left and you get a peek at the real collectivist agenda at work there. Other times a leftist will just take the mask off completely and show you the collectivist behind it.
It is one of the reasons I find the left to be the most potentially totalitarian side of the spectrum … because their basic premise, the premise that spawns all others, is indeed collectivism.
For instance, this Gawker screed by some nimrod named Hamilton Nolan:
Let’s have a maximum annual income of, oh, $5 million, pegged to inflation. All income above that would be taxed at 99 percent. Our precious national sports stars, celebrities, and corporate executives could still be fabulously wealthy. The daydreaming poor could still have a nice big number about which to hopelessly dream. Five million dollars a year. Five million! Anyone with $5 million can invest it conservatively enough to earn 5 percent a year and still be making $250K per year without lifting a finger. In other words, $5 million provides you with the means to live as a member of the one percent without ever touching the principal. It’s everything that any reasonable person could ask for, financially speaking.
A million and a quarter per year? Far more than anyone should be earning, in a world with so much poverty and want, but not so much that someone could consider themselves set for life. It’s a number at which the go-getting rich person is still aspirational. They hope to double or triple that salary before their earning days are done. So a hefty 75 percent tax, though completely just, will not only spook them enough to flee, but allow them to retain a modicum of dignity while doing so, at least among the more affluent segments of their peer group.
But $5 million? I defy the slickest PR firm in America to explain to a nation of struggling, underemployed working class people with a median household income of just over $50,000 why an already-wealthy person felt the need to leave the country—taking money out of the taxpayers’ pockets in a very literal sense—rather than donate, to the common good, earnings over one hundred times the nation’s median household income. This requires an already-wealthy person who is, by definition, being paid a wage that far outstrips any measure of fairness or good sense, to stand up in front of a nation (to which he has no doubt paid ample lip service during his rise to the top) of people far, far less fortunate than he and declare: "I have far more than I need. But I would rather abandon you all than help you."
If someone is willing to do that, let them take their shame and go. Good riddance.
You have to read the whole thing to ensure its not a spoof. It’s not. This knucklehead is serious.
Note how blithely he decides what is proper for you to have. “It’s everything that any reasonable person could ask for, financially speaking”.
Is it? What if you’re trying to build a business that requires, oh, I don’t know, 10 million?
Well, you can’t have that. Because Hamilton Nolan has arbitrarily decided that 5 mil is it. It’s a bit like the crowd that decides that at a minimum, labor is worth, oh I don’t know, how about $7.25 an hour?
Sound good? Let’s go with it and prosecute anyone that tries pay below that. What do you mean that causes unemployment because wage payers aren’t willing to pay more than what the labor on a job is worth? Why would some of them rather automate than pay that wage to a real person? How does a minimum wage kick up the price of a product?
See it’s these little niggling questions that are never entertained by economic rubes like Nolan that blow their little collectivist theories all to blazes.
Things like “well if I can only earn 5 mil in the US but I can earn 10 mil in Russia, I’ll just move to Russia”, also known as human nature, simply don’t register.
Dingbat’s reaction to such a move? “Good riddance”.
Really? Good riddance?
Someone ought to ask this economic idiot if he got his job at Gawker from a poor person? And when he got that job did he believe he got it because:
America has provided all of the opportunity necessary for these people to earn their fortunes. That opportunity is paid for with tax dollars.
Because that’s what he wrote. Seriously Mr. Nolan, did “America” provide all the opportunity necessary, paid for by the taxpayers, for you to land at Gawker? Or did your work and effort perhaps ‘earn’ you the job (although reading this hash one might be led to believe that Gawker has very low standards of employment)?
How does our collectivist plan on “rewarding” the high earners who remain and government coercively fleeces, taking most of what they’ve produced (note that the word “produced” never is used in Nolan’s rant)?
Newspaper articles. No. Seriously.
The wealthy could still earn as much as they want. It’s not that they don’t get anything for their earnings above $5 million; they get the distinct privilege of making a huge and helpful contribution to their fellow countrymen. Give them awards. Lavish them with praise. Publish the names of the highest taxpayers in laudatory newspaper columns. Allow them to bask in civic pride. But take their money. They have plenty.
Because Mr. Nolan and the mob, er collective, believe they have first claim on the money anyone earns. They just have to vote for it (“hey, that’s democracy!”). And that my friends is the basic difference between the left and right in this country. They believe it is“their” money or the government’s money. They have no idea of how wealth is produced. They have no idea of the concept of what it takes to earn something. Instead, it’s real simple: you get to keep what they deem appropriate, because wealth doesn’t belong to the producer, in their world it belongs to the collective.
This is not primarily about raising our total national tax revenue. That’s a far broader issue. This is about inequality. It’s about what type of nation we want to be—what level of inequality we are willing to tolerate in order to protect a vague and twisted notion of "freedom" that most people cannot even fully articulate, and that was created by the rich to serve themselves. This is a baby step. But it’s one that would make us, fundamentally, a better and more just country.
And if the rich people don’t like it, fine.
It’s not at all about “raising our total national tax revenue”.
It’s about nascent totalitarianism masquerading as “fairness”. Fairness is one of those code words on the left that is used to rationalize removing choice, using coercion and claiming their actions are justified because otherwise the status quo is “unfair”.
There is no worse of a sin in the collective than being ‘unfair’.
And screw you if you don’t like it.
This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale talk about the totalitarian mindset of the left, and its consequences.
The direct link to the podcast can be found here.
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Stanley Fish, writing in the New York Times today, offers a refreshingly honest view of "slutgate", moral equivalency, and double standards. It is, in fact, a bold statement of what we’ve always imagined the Progressive view is, though they have, in the past, been ever so careful not to admit it. It is, frankly, nice to see such honesty. As Mr. Fish explains:
Schultz and Maher are the good guys; they are on the side of truth and justice. Limbaugh is the bad guy; he is on the side of every nefarious force that threatens our democracy. Why should he get an even break?
There is no answer to that question once you step outside of the liberal calculus in which all persons, no matter what their moral status as you see it, are weighed in an equal balance. Rather than relaxing or soft-pedaling your convictions about what is right and wrong, stay with them, and treat people you see as morally different differently. Condemn Limbaugh and say that Schultz and Maher may have gone a bit too far but that they’re basically O.K. If you do that you will not be displaying a double standard; you will be affirming a single standard, and moreover it will be a moral one because you will be going with what you think is good rather than what you think is fair. “Fair” is a weak virtue; it is not even a virtue at all because it insists on a withdrawal from moral judgment.
I know the objections to what I have said here. It amounts to an apology for identity politics. It elevates tribal obligations over the universal obligations we owe to each other as citizens. It licenses differential and discriminatory treatment on the basis of contested points of view. It substitutes for the rule “don’t do it to them if you don’t want it done to you” the rule “be sure to do it to them first and more effectively.” It implies finally that might makes right. I can live with that.
There you have it. Conservatives are evil, progressives are good. It follows, therefore, that because progressives are good, then what they do in combating conservatives is right. Conservatives, being evil, deserve no respect and no attempts at courteous disagreement. They deserve nothing more than to be driven from the public sphere by any necessary means. Progressives are good, and if they commit what would otherwise be questionable acts, it is only the depravity of their political opponents that drives them to it.
Make no mistake: If the Stanley Fishes of this country could imprison you for holding contrary political beliefs, they’d do it in a second. After all, you are "on the side of every nefarious force that threatens our democracy". This is, of course, justification for a tyranny of the very worst sort. As C.S. Lewis pointed out:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
Progressivism, for all its puffing about equality and justice, is nothing more than totalitarianism cloaked in modern, politically-correct pieties.
It’s nice to see a progressive honestly admit it.
The thing is, it is not possible to have a sustainable, self-governing polity when a substantial portion of the electorate denies the fundamental morality or legitimacy of their opponents. The ultimate outcome of such a belief in a society has historically been an inevitable slide to civil unrest, resulting in either totalitarian repression, civil war, or dissolution into competing states.
I am increasingly beginning to wonder which of those three outcomes is most likely in our case.
Or how not to make friends and influence followers.
In a textbook example of messing in their own nest, members of Occupy Seattle managed to alienate most of those who turned out to support them at a recent forum. The story is written up in SLOG which is obviously supportive of the Occupy movement. But what Dominic Holden describes is a combination of a childish tantrum and totalitarian tendencies by a group so clueless they can’t get out of their own way and so ignorant that they don’t understand what they purportedly support.
Organized by Town Hall (and co-sponsored by The Stranger), the forum was intended to discuss the Occupy Wall Street movement, featuring three activists from Occupy Seattle and luminaries from labor, economics, and politics: Washington State Labor Council secretary-treasurer Lynne Dodson; Second Avenue Partners and progressive taxation activist Nick Hanauer; and GMMB political strategist Frank Greer. During opening remarks, JM Wong from Occupy Seattle declared that she wanted “no leadership from the Democratic Party or union bureaucrats. Nonprofits are trying to co-opt us."
Dodson, however, politely explained that labor unions are part and parcel with the Occupy movement’s push for economic reform. "I like to consider myself a union activist, not a union bureaucrat," she said. "This is labor’s fight, this is our fight."
Great … the Occupy movement on steroids. 6 folks there to discuss what’s going on with the movement to a pro-movement crowd, many of them there to find out more about it. So what happened?
Whatever further insight the speakers planned for the 90-minute event was then cut short when the woman ran on stage. Activists had planned to interrupt the panel because, some said, they opposed the power dynamic created by speakers on stage talking into microphones. Although Occupy Wall Street uses the belabored people’s mic—which involves one person speaking and the crowd repeating everything—to amplify the soft spoken and encourage free speech, last night it was used to silence the panel. The call and-response created an echoing cacophony. Despite pleas from several older audience members who couldn’t hear well to let the panelists proceed, the Occupy activists demanded a vote to overtake the forum.
That’s right – they weren’t doing it the way that particular faction of the Occupy Seattle movement felt it should be done, so it was tantrum time. The fact that this childish tantrum drove off pro-Occupy supporters? Meh. It’s all about the process man:
Assembly time is precious," the man yelled without a hint of irony. "Assembly time is precious!" we all yelled back, wasting precious time.
Then they insisted that everyone discuss the issue among their neighbors. If people opposed, they were drowned out by the people’s mic. So we talked about their proposal. One activist slept on the floor in front of the stage, spread eagle. The place reeked of BO. A man next to me worked through half a tin of chew. Eventually, we took another vote and activists demanded a count by hand.
It was 8:30 p.m. at this point, one hour after the event began, and we’d only heard opening statements. The forum was supposed to conclude by 9:00 p.m. "We have only a half hour left," Licata announced. "This is very interesting."
As the clock counted down, it was apparent that Occupy Seattle had repressed whatever thoughtful ideas the panelists brought to the stage and were willing to fill the time with chatter about unenlightening process. They wanted more power; they wanted to speak. They were also being rank hypocrites. Here is a group purporting to give people a voice and cut through the bureaucratic layers of government and capitalism. Instead, they silenced speech, quashed ideas, and replaced it with their own bureaucratic process reserved for a minority that wanted power. One gray-haired woman who was walking out put it like this: "It was very divisive. Now they are a little group, like the 1 Percent."
The activists lost the second vote, too. So the forum sort of proceeded, but now with occupiers booing speakers on stage when they disagreed and giving them the wrap-it-up hand gesture. For instance, Greer noted, "We learned in the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement, you can attract support or turn of support, and basically fail, and I don’t want you to fail." Despite his support, many activists booed and gestured that he stop talking.
Apparently some of them shouted out, “this is what democracy looks like”.
Really? Shouting down those who oppose your point of view, drowning out people who tried to talk or respond? That’s “democracy”?
That’s those totalitarian “we’ll do it my way or we won’t do it at all” tendencies coming to the surface.
Lots of people were leaving, angry—it was a stark contrast with stellar activism the week before.
Wong justified the interruption, saying, "We need to respect the movement that uses this process. I stick to it because it is a democratic process."
But the Occupy activists came off as disrespectful, hostile, and woefully misguided about what democracy looked like. The activists added zero new content, but in the process, prevented the speakers from sharing their knowledge (that’s some democracy). Let’s think if the tables were turned: These activists would be outraged if Town Hall set up a stack of speakers at the General Assembly and blasted them with an amplified panel discussion. It was equally selfish to destroy the panel with their People’s Mic.
On his way out the door, Brian King added, "They think it is more important to purify themselves rather than connect with people who are not like themselves. They probably can’t get much further than they are right now."
Process took precedence over respectful interaction and the cultivation of support. Anarchy took precedence over deliberation and debate.
It reminded me of the insistence on process in totalitarian countries where they justify all manner of vile action based on “process”. There was no democracy at work at this meeting, it was a minority attempting to use its own process as an excuse to take over the gathering. And, of course, what they did was badly damage their potential support base:
"I walked in supportive and left unsupportive," said 69-year-old Mary Ann, who declined to provide her last name. "I’m turned off by the negative shouts, repetition, and all I can think about is a cult. And I believe in every one of their damn principles."
Paula and Brian King also headed for the door early. "It was frustrating to listen to people shouting and interrupting," lamented Paula. Brian added, "We are leaving because they are looking inward at themselves and their eccentric process rather than reaching out to people."
I’ve seen all this before, from the radical 60s, the commune movement, etc. This is nothing new. It is the same old tired stuff in a new century and all it promises is an imposition of a failed ideology masked in words and phrases like “democracy” and “the will of the people”. They are now defined – by them – as the “general assembly’s procedures” and “the 99%”. Same crap, different buzz words, different century and a promise of the same outcome as with all the other times it has been imposed through out history.
Michael Moore, the “documentary” film maker who has pushed various liberal causes with extraordinarily slanted films, has called on President Obama to “show some guts” and arrest the head of Standard & Poors.
“Pres Obama, show some guts & arrest the CEO of Standard & Poors. These criminals brought down the economy in 2008& now they will do it again,” Mr. Moore wrote.
Yes, it’s all S&P’s fault. Somehow the 100% of GDP debt, 4 trillion of which was heaped on the pile within the last 3 years, was an S&P plot. Apparently Moore is of the opinion that credit rating agencies ought to align themselves politically and if they don’t, or won’t, well they’re open to arrest. S&P obviously should have just kept to itself and supported the outrageous spending this administration has committed itself too.
It seems in Moore’s world the rating agency’s job is to turn a blind eye to actions and activities which, for any other country, would have earned a downgrade quite a while ago.
It it is telling that on the liberal side of things, the first inclination is to attack the messenger. And that inclination is driven by one primary thing – politics. Specifically the politics of personal destruction. The downgrade obviously hurts Obama politically. And all the spinning in the world doesn’t change that.
Because they see this as a desperate situation, the mask slips a bit and you see the true face of "liberalism". Imagine, in a Moore approved regime, how dissent would be handled if he’s now calling for the arrest of the CEO of S&P.
Mr. Moore went on to note that the “owners of S&P are old Bush family friends,” continuing a theme he has developed through several films about capitalism as essentially a crony system for the rich and Wall Street, especially the Bush family.
He went on to link approvingly to an article last week in the Guardian, a left-wing British newspaper, about a police raid in Milan against the offices of S&P and fellow ratings agency Moody’s. Italian police were searching for evidence on whether the rating agencies, in the words of a local prosecutor, “respect regulations as they carry out their work”.
Two more interesting points – somehow it is “Bush’s fault” (there’s a surprise). Additionally it is “important to respect regulations” when these agencies carry out their work. Of course Italy was downgraded by Moody’s and the reaction there by government has been much the same as here – “what us? How dare you”. Fallback? Government regulations, of course.
Naturally Moore doesn’t bother to point out that the government of Italy is run by a right-wing Prime Minister who, at any other time, he’d now be calling a “fascist” for doing that.
Vintage Moore. Vintage liberalism. Liberalism in very deep trouble. And that’s always when its inner totalitarian usually begins to show.
One of the points of Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism” is that if some form of totalitarianism ever establishes itself here, it will have a happy, smiley face and all be done in the name of what is “good for us”. And it will also be a sort of creeping totalitarianism – not done in one fell swoop as in a revolution, but in bits and pieces with the best of intentions. Call it “Nannyism” if you’re uncomfortable with fascism or totalitarianism. But I find it difficult to describe the following as anything but smiley-faced totalitarianism:
“No owner or operator of a restaurant in this state shall use salt in any form in the preparation of any food for consumption by customers of such restaurant, including food prepared to be consumed on the premises of such restaurant or off of such premises,” the bill, A. 10129 , states in part.
The legislation, which Assemblyman Felix Ortiz , D-Brooklyn, introduced on March 5, would fine restaurants $1,000 for each violation.
The first thing some are going to say is “well, this hasn’t a chance to pass”. That may be so, but it bespeaks a mindset that exists and is becoming more and more prevalent. The pending health care bill is another manifestation of this mentality which essentially says it is the job of government to ensure a certain style and quality of life which is best for you – whether you agree or not.
The problem of course is offering legislation like this isn’t that unusual. Trans fats. Soda taxes, etc. The nannies are constantly trying to decide for you what is best for you. Check out this story. Certainly the intent of the story isn’t to dictate what you can or can’t eat. But it takes a time when most people relax the rules a little and enjoy themselves and essentially tries to guilt them into “eating healthy”. It’s one of the more benign forms of nannyism, but it is still aimed at altering behavior based on the belief that they know better.
Of course the distinct possibility exists that if health care reform legislation passes and government takes control of the industry through direct or indirect means, such legislation won’t be confined to state legislatures. Already, with smiley faces, soda and snack machines are being taken out of schools for the ostensible reason “fighting childhood obesity” as if those particular machines are the reason children are fat and taking them out will somehow change a child’s eating habits outside of school and slim them up. Government controls the schools, so government dictates what will be available and what children should eat – not the parents. As should be obvious, the government already believes you’re a failure – you have fat kids, don’t you?!
Given that precedent, why does anyone doubt that government wouldn’t extend such control to other areas it “pays” for (it pays for nothing, since it has no money – it is in the transfer business) with your tax dollars? Why wouldn’t Congress, on the advice of say the AMA (or some government research, etc), issue strict guidelines concerning salt in food? Sugar in food? Fatty content in food? Etc.? Isn’t that something the FDA could end up doing? Of course it is. Look at what the EPA is trying to do now with “greenhouse gasses”.
If you buy into the government’s claim it can cut health care costs, and you give them the go ahead for passing legislation which will ostensibly do that, where do you draw the line on what is an isn’t unacceptable in pursuing those cost reductions? You don’t. By accepting their premise you give government the carte blanch authority to decide what is necessary to do what it says it can do. You’ve turned it over to them. If they decide that preventive care is the key, and critical to preventive care is healthy eating, what leg have you to stand on you claim they’ve gone too far and what you eat is none of their business? When the AMA says Americans need to cut their salt consumption and government acts on that, how do you say “none of your business?” When the First Lady claims sugary drinks should be taxed because they lead to unhealthy children and Congress agrees, what possible argument, given the fact you’ve abrogated your own personal responsibility to take care of yourself and your family and handed it over to government, can you make against that?
What seems to be almost laughable “nuisance” legislation right now is just a taste (no pun intended) of what will become routine legislation should this health care debacle pass. You have some marginal control over the way you live now. You still retain at least a modicum of control over your life. You still have the freedom to decide, at least for the moment, what you will or won’t eat. It is very possible that at some point in the near future, you could lose that freedom too.
Freedom means the freedom to fail, to eat what isn’t deemed healthy, to do as you please as long as you don’t violate the rights of others. Freedom isn’t always pretty and others may think you’re a raving dumb-ass for doing what you do to yourself. But freedom deems that to be your choice, again with the caveat you’re not violating the rights of others.
What we’re seeing with this creeping nannyism, this smiley-faced totalitarianism, is a change in philosophy driven by increasing government intrusion which in turn justifies even more intrusion. It is a paradigm shift of epic proportions from the founding principles of this country. Freedom is a dying concept as we see more and more people buying into the preference that others should make decisions for them. They’re become increasingly comfortable with the control exercised over their lives by government. It’s “easier”. It’s “less of a hassle”. They don’t have to “worry about it”, whatever the specific “it” is.
But that sort of a life has a price that most don’t seem to understand – and that price is the pure essence of freedom: the ability to make choices. Salt bans, drink taxes, etc – all with the smiley-faced intention of doing what others believe is best for you and in every case, limiting or abolishing your freedom to choose.
Freedom isn’t always lost in big chunks like war or revolution. Sometimes it is lost a piece at a time. One of the things I think the Tea Party movement recognizes and is motivated by is this dawning realization that this creeping nannyism, the smiley-faced totalitarianism of “good intentions” forced on all, is very close to succeeding, or, if not fully succeeding, at least setting itself up for the final push in the near future. The convergence of the financial meltdown and the ambitious leftist agenda of this president served as a wake up call. People realized that what was creeping nannyism has transitioned into nannyism at a full gallop. As it turns out, it may be the best thing that ever happened to this country – if its people successful in turning the nannyism back.
If not, then expect more things like salt bans to show up at much higher levels than state assemblies. And when you’re buying your salt on the black market from your local pusher, keep an eye out for “the salt police”. You wouldn’t want your government health care jeopardized by a salt abuse conviction, would you?
I’m not sure how you could call this anything else:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said that businesses have no reason to raise prices following the devaluation of the bolivar and that the government will seize any entity that boosts its prices.
Chavez said he’ll create an anti-speculation committee to monitor prices after private businesses said that prices would double and consumers rushed to buy household appliances and televisions. The government is the only authority able to dictate price increases, he said.
“The bourgeois are already talking about how all prices are going to double and they’re closing their businesses to raise prices,” Chavez said in comments on state television during his weekly “Alo Presidente” program. “People, don’t let them rob you, denounce it, and I’m capable of taking over that business.”
Not only is he “capable” of taking the business over, but he’s turning out the army to monitor all of this. And he’s promised to “transfer the ownership” of any business raising prices “to the workers”. We’ve all seen how well those sorts of takeovers have worked out in the past.
To review, he’s devalued the bolivar which had been fixed at 2.15 to the U.S. dollar since 2005, to 4.3 to the dollar. He then declared that businesses – which own stock under the old currency value and which will have to restock using the devalued currency – must keep their prices at the old price and let consumers buy that stock with the devalued currency or lose their business. A unilateral decision on his part and the refusal, again unilaterally, to allow those who own the goods they’re selling to react to his decision.
Where I come from, that’s called totalitarianism.